Piper Kerman was convicted of money laundering and spent a year in a women’s prison. Her memoir about her experience was the inspiration behind the TV series Orange Is the New Black.
You are out there pushing yourself as hard as possible to get beyond your perceived boundaries—limitations associated with your gender, class, and age. There are certain things that “nice young women” just don’t do, and you are very interested in them.
You are trying to put as much distance as possible between you and what you think is expected of you; you will go halfway around the world and do the wrong things. You just don’t fully comprehend the consequences of your choices, not only for you but for others. In fact, you think your actions are inconsequential. You are mistaken. Being a badass is seriously overrated.
Stop for a moment and step outside of yourself. Notice the wider world around you and not just your hurtling trajectory through it.
When you are in trouble, your family is going to astound you with their tremendous reserves of love and unwavering support, so be a better daughter and a better sister now.
Lucky for you that you have already forged friendships that are going to last for decades. The day will come when the people who love you most will stand by you, despite all your mistakes and flaws. So forgive them theirs.
You’re going to meet a man who will change your life. Yes, that’s hard to believe at the moment, as you wouldn’t currently touch a man with a ten-foot pole. But you’re going to surprise everyone, most of all yourself, when you fall head over heels in love with him. And when your past comes back with ferocious fangs to threaten your life together, he’s somehow not going to be scared, not rattled. His love is going to sustain you.
The day is going to come when you seem to lose everything. When you are sitting in a prison bunk after mail call, reading friends’ letters voraciously and gratefully, you will recognize them as your lifeline. But all these people and the things they taught you are still going to be there, and that’s what will get you through dark days and tight spots behind the walls of the biggest prison system in the world.
You and your choices in the world matter a great deal, and not just to you. As a very young woman it may not seem like you are powerful and have an impact on others. You do. So draw on every advantage you’ve been given and do the right thing and the kind thing, as often as humanly possible.
And don’t be afraid to tell the truth.